Christian women are standing by their man. Boy, does that familiar.

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We’ve all seen the flyer, the one distributed by Chaplain Lee Watts, Bible study leader at the Kentucky State Capitol, advertising his March 9 prayer breakfast.

I recalled this flyer, the one Chaplain Watts insisted was misunderstood, as I watched a group of self-described Christian women in Dallas defend the president while dismissing Stormy Daniels during her 60 Minutes interview. “This is a porn star,” one woman sneered. “Why are we giving it any credibility? And the fact that she now wants to come out with a story because she’s afraid for her children? My goodness! What did you tell the kiddos about your full-time job?!” Another woman adding, “Should we believe the President of the United States or a strippper/porn star?”

These women still respect the president they voted for. Like the cartoon woman on Chaplain Watts’s flyer, they think negative stories about Trump are nothing but fake news. Why? Because they believe God ordained Trump to be president. And they are standing by their man.

They are not alone. Tony Perkins, prominent Evangelical and president of the Family Research Council, recently said about the president, “We kind of gave him, all right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,” adding that Evangelicals are “tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists.”

But what if President Obama had behaved like Trump. Would Evangelicals, or anyone, have given him a mulligan?

Imagine if a porn star and a Playboy model insisted Obama had had unprotected sex with them, saying they reminded him of his daughter. What if it had been Obama on the radio as Howard Stern called his daughter a piece of ass, responding, “Yeah, she’s really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren’t happily married and, ya know, her father…”

Imagine if it was Obama who had denigrated a Gold Star family or mocked a handicapped reporter during the campaign. What if Obama had stood on a debate stage and defended the size of his … hands … saying, “[Marco Rubio] referred to my hands if they’re small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee you.”

Imagine if Obama had gone to Puerto Rico after an historically horrific hurricane and shot paper towels into the crowd like he was playing basketball. Imagine further that, even after months of American citizens on that island being without power and hundreds of deaths, he never mentioned Puerto Rico again.

Imagine if Obama, after a mass school shooting, had not spent a considerable amount of time with families and the community before leading a prayer vigil. Imagine, instead, that he’d flown in late and unannounced on a Friday night, snapped a few press photos, and then spent the rest of his weekend holed up a few miles down the road at a posh country club.

Imagine if Obama had called Mexicans rapists then insisted Mexico pay for a border wall they never wanted nor supported. Then imagine, knowing all the while that Mexico would not pay, he tried to bilk billions from our military budget to cover his promises.

Imagine, if you will, an Obama-supporting Bible study leader at the Kentucky State Capitol distributing a flyer for his prayer breakfast with the words, “why the president is righteous and those against him are wicked.”

Remember when Trump said, prophetically it now seems, during the campaign, “The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible.”

As one Christian woman in that Dallas group said after watching Stormy Daniels on 60 Minutes, “I know that when I voted for him, I wasn’t voting for a choirboy.”

Don’t look now, but these women sound eerily like another woman in a 60 Minutes interview from 1992, when she said about then-president Clinton, “I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him and I respect him.”

I guess God ordained Clinton to be president, too. Does he get a mulligan?

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Collateral Damage

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Photo credit: NPR

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“American farmers are collateral damage in Trump’s trade war.” This was the March 23 headline in Mother Jones magazine, in stark contrast to the president’s words just three days earlier. “Our Nation was founded by farmers,” he tweeted. “Our independence was won by farmers. And our continent was tamed by farmers. Our farmers always lead the way — we are PROUD of them, and we are DELIVERING for them!”

But according to Mother Jones, Missouri’s farm bureau members are sick with worry. “China’s threat to limit its purchases of US soybeans and pork sent a chill through the grain belt. In its announcement on Friday [in response to President Trump’s threat of a trade war], China threatened a 25 percent tariff on US pork, imperiling a $1.16 billion market.”

Consequential headlines like these tend to get lost under the heavy pile of chaos this president buries us under on a daily basis.

Consider the last couple of weeks.

He fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Not in person; not on the phone; but on Twitter. No matter your opinion of Tillerson, he was an honorable man who served his country and was deserving of respect. What kind of president humiliates his own senior staff in this manner?

He congratulated Russia’s Vladimir Putin on winning what John McCain called a “sham” election, even after his own staff wrote DO NOT CONGRATULATE in all caps on his briefing materials.

He stated his intent to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, then fired his National Security Advisor. Lest you think this is no big deal, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, retired Admiral James Stavridis, had this terrifying response: “You look for the national security apparatus as guardrails around the presidency because of the immense power that’s invested in the executive branch. I feel like those guardrails are drifting. God help us if we lose Jim Mattis.”

A key member of the president’s legal team resigned. (Note: Obama did not need, nor have, a legal team.)

He fired Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe just 26 hours before he was to receive his pension after 20 years of service protecting this country. How did McCabe learn he’d been fired? A friend saw it on TV and called him at home, after 10 pm, on a Friday night.

Do you have a pension? Imagine losing your pension, your livelihood, your family’s security, this way.

And who can look past the veritable car wreck of credible allegations that the president had not one, but two, affairs in the months after his wife Melania gave birth. One long-term, with a Playboy model who says he offered to put her up in a New York City Apartment. One with a porn star. All as his wife nursed their infant boy.

This is, in a word, damaging.

Sure, President Trump put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court and passed huge tax cuts for the wealthy. But he has also implemented ill-advised tariffs—causing Gary Cohn, his top economic advisor, to resign—that could severely damage American businesses and farmers. In the words of Blake Hurst, a corn and soybean farmer and president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, “Folks are getting pretty nervous.”

If you don’t want to listen to me, how about Peter Wehner, an Evangelical Christian who served in 3 Republican presidential administrations (Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush). In a recent interview with David Axelrod he said, “We think the Gorsuch nomination was a good thing, but on his treatment of women, his pathological lies, his denigration of the poor, and his attacks are something that are really troubling and problematic. And the hush money, the $130,000 for a porn star while your third wife was at home with your child” is just complete hypocrisy.

Mr. Wehner also wrote in The New York Times, “I hoped the Trump era would be seen as an aberration and made less ugly by those who might have influence over the president. That hasn’t happened. Rather than Republicans and people of faith checking his most unappealing sides, the president is dragging down virtually everyone within his orbit.”

Would we have tolerated this constant chaos, this instabilty, from a Hillary Clinton, or any other, president?

No. We would not.

Turns out most Americans will be the Trump presidency’s collateral damage. In the words of Adm. Stavridis, “God help us.”

Mass shootings are about guns. Period.

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My friend DC likes guns. DC is a good guy, a hard worker, a family man who spends a lot of time with his kids; he is calm and measured of character; he is that thoughtful neighbor you call with any kind of emergency, the guy who would do anything for you. DC is a responsible hunter, a good shot. I trust DC with guns.

But I do not like guns. I watched the men in my family terrorize their wives with guns; my step-grandfather shot himself shortly before my stepfather was born; my maternal grandfather liked to get drunk and threaten my grandmother with his shotgun; a boy in my first grade class accidentally shot his baby brother in the head, and when he came back to school he’d stopped talking and peed his pants everyday; a friend’s teenage nephew suffered from depression and shot himself in the chest in front of his mom.

I am, understandably I think, afraid of guns.

But do I want to ban guns? Of course not. The fact is, liking guns or not liking guns is irrelevant. What matters is what works.

In business, we look to other companies for best practices. And for best practices on guns, look no further than Japan.

Japan has a population of 127 million. Japan does not ban guns, yet Japan does not have mass shootings. In 2014, they had six gun deaths. Six, compared to 33,594 in the United States.

How? In Japan, you can own a shotgun or an air rifle. To become a gun owner, every three years you must attend class and pass a written test, attend shooting class and pass a test, pass a mental health exam, pass a drug test, and file your passing grades with the police along with where you will be storing your guns and ammo in your home, which the police will inspect once a year.

Here in the U.S., we will talk about anything but guns. There must be something else to blame.

Document the mentally ill. Are there no mentally ill people in Japan? What about anger and depression? Can being angry or depressed be adjudicated as a mental illness?

It’s the violent video games. Japan has some of the most horrifically violent video games out there.

It’s bad parenting. All of the parents in Japan are wonderful?

Raise the age limit to 21. The Vegas shooter was 64 years old. The Sutherland Springs, TX, church shooter was 26. The Emanuel AME Church shooter was 21.

Arm the teachers. Who will monitor their training and ability? Who will pay their liability insurance? What happens the first time a teacher shoots a child? Won’t school shooters — most of whom are current or previous students — know which teachers have guns? How does arming teachers prevent mass shootings like Vegas and Sutherland Springs?

Provide funding for active shooter drills. Again, school shooters tend to be students. They have been through the drills and will know how to circumvent the protocol, and where specific teachers and students are hiding.

Armed guards in schools. A good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. New York has 36,000 well-trained police officers. They report their officers only hit their targets one-third of the time.

Banning high velocity assault weapons won’t save lives. Dr. Heather Sher, the radiologist for the recent Parkland, FL shooting, argued in The Atlantic, “Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks.… If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him.” But “an AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle that delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim, [leaves] nothing to repair.”

In math, we are taught to look for the common denominator. What is the common denominator in every mass shooting? Is it mental illness, video games, bad parents, age limits, or ‘gun free zones?’ No. It’s guns. Mass shootings are about guns.

Mass shootings are about easy access to high-velocity firearms by people intent on killing the most human beings, causing the most carnage, with the least need for accuracy, in the shortest amount of time.

My opinion is irrelevant.

My friend DC’s opinion is irrelevant.

Liking or not liking guns is irrelevant.

Mass shootings are about guns. And we will continue to watch our children die until we stop picking sides and talk honestly about that.

32 years in Kentucky

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Protesters await Sen. McConnell outside the Lawrenceburg VFW, 2-21-2017

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Kentucky is dying. Black lung, COPD, emphysema. This month’s Journal of the American Medical Association reports “the largest cluster ever reported of advanced black lung, also known as progressive massive fibrosis, was confirmed in an area that includes southeastern Kentucky.”

Coal miners like Roger Cook worked for 32 years. He died at 61 of black lung.

Then there is our opioid crisis where 1,471 Kentuckians died in 2016 trying to tamp down their pain, with even higher numbers expected for 2017. A friend of ours got a call that his granddaughter was dead on her porch. Fentanyl. She left behind two little girls who will now go to live with their father, also an addict.

We aren’t even surprised anymore. This is Kentucky life, and death.

President Trump said we were going to win so much we would get tired of winning. But so far, the only winners here in the Bluegrass here are Morphine, Fentanyl, Oxycodone, Alprazolam, and Heroine.

Though Kentucky rates well for quality of life (#27 out of the 50 states), according to U.S. News and World Report we rank #49 for quality of healthcare, #38 in higher education, #45 in economic opportunity and #46 in fiscal stability.

Which begs the question: how does our senior senator, the man who has represented Kentucky for 32 years, explain numbers like these?

I met Senator McConnell a year ago, Feb. 21, 2017, at a small, ticketed town hall, a paper-plate buffet at the Lawrenceburg VFW. We said hello when I handed him the spoon for the potato salad, while outside a large group of angry, frustrated protesters chanted for change, held back by police and chainlink.

When it came time to talk, the senator threw the audience his tired, go-to bones—“elections have consequences, winners make policy and losers go home”— before scampering out the back door the minute questions turned tough. Too bad, as he missed the heavily pregnant young woman, a cancer survivor toting a toddler on her hip, trying to ask about healthcare before being screamed down by a retired local surgeon in a red MAGA hat.

“Make America Great Again!”

I know the senator is busy, dealing as he must with the White House scandale du jour, and main stream media is swept up with porn star payments and a president who can’t be bothered to denounce Nazis, fight for new gun laws, or read his daily intelligence brief.

But meanwhile, Kentucky is back here dying, desperate as we are to keep our kids from killing their classmates with easy-access guns, terrified of losing affordable healthcare, and trying to figure out exactly how black-lung coal miners like Roger Cook (see above, dead now) might go about fulfilling the new Medicaid work requirements while quite literally suffocating to death.

While our senior senator hides out in Washington D.C., Governor Bevin sends thoughts and prayers, focused as he is on cutting teacher pensions and getting our underfunded schools to consider Bible Literacy classes, but how much manpower and money will be needed to manage a Medicaid work requirement for people too sick to work?

This is not winning. This is lunacy.

In a couple of months, Kentucky’s unseemly problems will be swept aside for our annual, crowning spectacle: the Kentucky Derby. But will anyone in notice, amidst the fancy hats and mint juleps and million dollar thoroughbreds, that it’s the immigrants—the brown people Congress and the president are so keen on deporting—who keep this tradition going?

If he has a minute, maybe Senator McConnell could share this staple of the Bluegrass economy with the president.

Kentucky is dying, and we have so much need. We need healthcare, education, infrastructure, an addiction recovery plan, sensible gun reform, money for teachers, new economic opportunities, and paths to citizenship for the people doing the work.

The senator was right last year at the VFW, in his speech over the paper plates and potato salad. Elections have consequences. Losers go home. And the senator has squandered 32 years. I’d say his time is up.

Where no one sees guns as part of the problem

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This message was written on a wall Tuesday in a middle school bathroom, one of three shooting threats the district received.

This week our small, rural town received threats of gun violence at all 3 schools. Two little girls, ages 11 and 13, have been charged. People are taking about school discipline, blaming bad parenting, calling for regulations on violent video games and movies, demanding a return to corporal punishment, praying for more God in the schools.

Guess what no one is talking about?

____________

You’ll find my full story here, at The Washington Post.

As always, thanks so much for reading.

 

Thoughts and prayers … or how I don’t want to hear about your love of guns

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Photo credit: The Christian Post

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I am not going to tell you about the need for gun control. I am going to tell you how much campaign cash the following Republican senators have received from the NRA:

John McCain, Arizona   $7,740,521
Richard Burr, North Carolina   $6,986,620
Roy Blount, Missouri   $4,551,146
Thom Tillis, North Carolina   $4,418,012
Cory Gardner, Colorado   $3,879,064
Marco Rubio, Florida   $3,303,355
Joni Ernst, Iowa   $3,124,273
Rob Portman, Ohio   $3,061,941

Our kids are killing each other, so you’ll forgive me if I don’t care just now to hear the love-songs about how you grew up with guns, how you hunted with your daddy and forged “an unbreakable bond,” how your granddaddy passed down the family tradition, or that you simply love the architecture and beauty of guns.

There have been 18 school shootings so far this year.

The year is 45 days old.

The first mass school shooting — Columbine — happened two decades ago. But sure, let’s stick with the abundance of “thoughts and prayers” because it is obviously working.

I do not want to hear that you’re an avid deer hunter and deer are a scourge so we should all be thankful and you are doing our community a favor by thinning the herd and we should say thank you thank you so very much for your service.

American suicide methods, as documented by the Centers for Disease Control:
Poisoning: 6,808        Suffocation: 11,407       Firearms: 42, 826

The Vegas concert shooter killed 58 and injured 851 in less than 10 minutes. Tell me again how a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun.

I don’t want to hear about your patriotism, your beloved Second Amendment. You, personally, are not what our founders meant by the words “well-regulated militia.” If you want to make a real argument about why you need your guns, don’t hide behind a Constitution that I doubt you have ever read.

46,445:  that’s the number of Americans killed by guns between 2012 and 2016.

I am not going to tell you about gun control, because you’ll want to call gun violence a mental health issue. Do countries with sensible gun laws and low gun mortality rates not have mentally ill people? Please explain.

Five years ago, twenty 6 and 7 year olds were massacred at Sandy Hook. We did nothing. We will continue to do nothing.

Yesterday, a 19 year old walked into a Florida school and killed 17 kids. I am not going to tell you about the need for gun control because I don’t care to hear about your need for freedom.

You are free. Just say you love your guns and be done with it. I’ll send thoughts and prayers.

All the president’s (abusive) men

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Photo Credit: The Los Angeles Times

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Turns out there are sick people everywhere this winter, even in the White House, only it is not the flu that’s getting them down. It is the piling up of violence against women, of harassers and abusers, of sick men.

Last week we learned staff secretary Rob Porter flunked his security clearance, but that did not stop him from working in the West Wing, handling the most classified information. When the president learned of Porter’s violent history — there is a photo of his first ex-wife with a black eye; the second ex-wife filed a restraining order against him — the president was enthusiastically sympathetic. For Porter.

“It’s obviously a very tough time for him,” President Trump said. “It was very sad when we heard about it. He says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly yesterday that he’s innocent.”

He’s innocent. He said it very strongly.

Prior to his election, Trump often assured us, “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people.” And yet, he maintains a sickening pattern for excusing men who abuse women. Recall his outright dismissal of child molestation and rape allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore (a man he does not even know). “He denies it. In fact, he totally denies it,” Trump told reporters. “He says it didn’t happen.”

He totally denies it. Says it didn’t happen.

Trump has a habit of throwing his unquestioning heft behind credibly-accused men in his orbit: Cory Lewandowski, Andy Puzder, Steve Bannon. When Roger Ailes was forced out at FOX News, Trump’s response? “[Women] are saying these horrible things about him. It’s very sad because he’s a very good person.” And when Bill O’Reilly left FOX following multiple allegations of sexual harassment and doling out millions in settlements, Trump stood by him, too, saying, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. He is a good person.”

I don’t think he did it. He is a good person.

Abusers are sick, like drug addicts are sick. They defend, lie, obfuscate, and excuse. They lay blame everywhere but at their own feet. This is how they justify being abusers themselves.

President Trump has often said, ”I have great respect for women. Nobody has more respect for women than I do.” Yet 19 women have credibly accused him of sexual harassment and assault; he told Billy Bush on the Access Hollywood Tape, “You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. When you’re a star they let you do it”; he tweeted that a sitting U.S. senator (Kirsten Gillibrand) offered him sexual favors for money; he once told radio host Howard Stern it was okay to call his own daughter a “piece of ass” adding, “if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her. Isn’t that terrible? How terrible? Is that terrible?”

He joked, when his wife Melania was five months pregnant, that he’d seen “beautiful women that for the rest of their lives have become [a] horror” after giving birth. You know, they gain like 250 pounds. It’s like a disaster,” adding he’d give his wife a week to lose the baby weight. He then reportedly paid a porn star $130,000 to deny the Vegas sex-romp they had in the weeks after Melania gave birth.

But he totally denies it. Of course he does. He is a good person.

Chief of Staff John Kelly recently stood before the White House press corps and reminisced, “When I was a kid growing up, a lot of things were sacred in our country. Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor.” Yet after seeing photo evidence of spousal abuse, and knowing for months about the FBI report, Kelly still called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor.”

There is a pandemic in and around this White House, and it has nothing to do with the flu. As many as 40 staffers and appointees cannot be granted proper security clearance, making them national security risks, vulnerable to blackmail. And our president is Patient Zero.

Too bad there’s not a flu shot for abusers and their enablers.

After Porter left his post at the White House, another unrelated allegation. The ex-wife of speech writer David Sorensen informed the press that she reported his violent history to the FBI, that he ran a car over her foot, put out a cigarette on her hand, threw her into a wall, and more.

I suspect the president and his Chief of Staff will say he is innocent, a good person, a man of true integrity and honor.

Aren’t they all.